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Club limbo stunts English players: Hodgson

33 percent of the players who started Premier League games on the opening weekend of the season qualified to play for England

AFP, Sunday 1 Sep 2013
Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson (Photo: Reuters)

England manager Roy Hodgson believes young English players are being harmed by Premier League clubs who do not play them but are fearful of letting them leave.

A study produced by the Guardian newspaper last month revealed that only 33 percent of the players who started Premier League games on the opening weekend of the season qualified to play for England.

That represents the worst figure in the post-1992 Premier League era and leaves the English top flight trailing well behind rival championships in Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

The apparent shallowness of the English talent pool was demonstrated on two occasions during the close season, when England's representative sides went out of the Under-21 European Championship and the Under-20 World Cup without winning a game between them.

Hodgson, however, feels that the fault lies with English clubs stockpiling players and does not believe the statistics point to a diminishing level of ability in the English game.

"The other thing you should look at is the number of players at the top clubs who the clubs rate unbelievably highly and who would be first-team starters in probably a lot of Premiership clubs were they not playing for the top four or five clubs, where their way is blocked by extremely talented players," he told journalists during a briefing at Wembley.

"I'll give you an example -- Tom Carroll, at Tottenham Hotspur. I've worked with Premiership clubs -- I've worked at Fulham, I've worked at West Bromwich Albion -- and Tom Carroll would have played in probably the Fulham team and the West Brom team.

"But he doesn't play for Tottenham. Now is that Tottenham's fault? No, not really, because maybe he's not quite as good as Paulinho or (Mousa) Dembele or Sandro or Scott Parker (now of Fulham).

"I'm not criticising the judgement of the coaches. I'm just saying, these players do exist."

Hodgson pointed to Manchester United as an example of a club who are no longer prepared to take the risks with young players that they did in the early years of former manager Alex Ferguson's tenure.

"In the under-21s, I come into contact with Jesse Lingard, who I've never heard of, because I don't watch under-21 Manchester United matches, with (Michael) Keane, and with (Tom) Thorpe, Nick Powell," he said.

"These are all players who I think are very, very good, talented, English players who will become very, very good players, but they don't feature in the 30 percent of English players playing every week. But that doesn't mean to say we haven't got good players.

"The Premier League, because it's such an important league, the coaches are under such enormous pressure that today, the chances of you as a Premiership manager giving players a chance like Ferguson did all those years ago...

"What would have become of the Nevilles, the Beckhams, the Scholeses, the Giggs, the Butts had it not been for the fact that, at the time they were growing up, managers did take a chance?

"They didn't go rushing out and buy a foreigner every time or a player every time, they said: 'He's only 19, Scholes, but he's going to be one hell of a player. Let's give him a go.'"

Hodgson warned that a failure to arrest the current trend could have serious repercussions for both the players themselves and the national team.

"We've got to find a way of making certain that we don't dismiss these players, that we don't lose them, and as a nation, I've got to hope that not getting a lot of games isn't going to destroy their careers," he said.

"Because it could happen. If you go two years as a player who's too good to let go, but not good enough to play every week, you might not be a very good player at the end of it."

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